The office messaging app Slack made its IPO under the ticker symbol WORK and saw its market value skyrocket 60%. It debuted on the New York Stock Exchange at $38.50 and rose 8.4% to $41.73 the same afternoon. Slack gained traction in 2014, when many media and tech companies started using the app to communicate with co-workers in a less formal and quicker process than email. Stewart Butterfield founded the company in 2013.
Butterfield was born Dharma Butterfield in Lund, British Columbia in 1973. His parents are Norma and David Butterfield. He grew up on a commune in a log cabin without running water in a remote area of Canada, as his dad had fled the U.S. to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War. When Butterfield was five years old, he moved to Victoria, British Columbia. He changed his name to Stewart when he was 12 years old. He taught himself to code as a kid, but his entrée into the world wide web came in college at the University of Victoria. He was a fan of the jam band Phish and it was his access to rec.music.phish, one of the first usenet groups that opened up the possibilities of the internet to him.
In 2000, the dot com bubble had just burst and Butterfield sold his fist project, Gradfinder.com – a website that helped recent college graduates find and communicate with other grads – for a decent amount of money. From there, he tried to start an online multiplayer game called Ludicorp with his then wife Caterina Fake and business partner Jason Classon. That bombed. They had raised money from friends and family to build it. Their timing was off. It was after the failure of WorldCom, Enron, and 9/11. No one wanted to invest in something as frivolous as a game.
The failure of Ludicorp led him to his first big success: Flickr. Butterfield got the idea for the photo sharing site while he was sick from food poisoning in New York City. He was up sick all night and he got the idea while he was throwing up. Flickr blew up in the mid 2000s and Butterfield sold it to Yahoo for $20 million.
However, he still had big dreams about building a multi-player game. He and engineer Cal Henderson raised $17 million in three rounds and had 45 people working on the game Glitch. It soon became clear that it wasn't going to become a business that would justify the $17 million in venture capital investment.
It was the people and environment of Glitch that led to Slack. The customized communication tool that was built for Glitch was the genesis of Slack. The goal of Slack is to revolutionize the way people share information, documents and media in a work setting. Basically, Butterfield wants Slack to do for messaging what Gmail did for email. All of your communication goes into one place and you don't have to worry about it.
Today, Slack is an integral part of most large-scale offices and media companies. In some cases, it is used more than email.